One of the most common difficulties for women is also one of the least talked about: hair loss. More than 20 million Americans experience some kind of hair loss, as they get older.
In a society where a thick head of hair is always associated with health, youth and desirability, hair loss can be emotionally devastating. In contrast, thin hair is linked to advanced age or ill health. One of the first characteristics we notice upon meeting another person is their hair. The first and last thing we attend to before any important occasion is our own hair.
The average number of hairs on the adult scalp is 100,000 to 150,000. When hair loss exceeds the approximate 100 hairs per day, considered normal, it can cause not only cosmetic concerns but also feelings of vulnerability and loss of self-esteem. This sends us out to try nutritional supplements to encourage healthy hair growth, special shampoos and treatments to restore and thicken hair, wigs and hairpieces to replace lost hair and even surgical remedies. Before trying one of these various treatments, it is reasonable to understand the symptoms and causes of the various types of hair loss.
The most common cause of hair loss is Androgenetic Alopecia. This type of hair loss is said to be attributed to the hormone Dehydrotestosterone (DHT) that results in pattern hair loss most often found in men, but also in women. It is progressive and occurs in predictable stages.
Alopecia Areata or patchy hair loss is an immune system disorder, which causes hair follicles to stop producing hairs. A common symptom is sudden loss of hair from small patches on the head. Advanced forms of the disorder include Alopecia Totalis, where all the hair on the head is lost and Alopecia Universalis, which results in the absence of all body hair.
Traction Alopecia is the loss of hair from constant pulling often the result of tightly braided hair.
Delayed loss from stress is termed Telogen Effluvium. This is the slowing of new hair growth resulting from sudden severe stress, followed by a delayed shedding of hair.
Sudden hair loss is called Anagen Effluvium. This is a result of chemicals or radiation. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy halt the growth phase of hair follicles and result in the sudden shedding of hair. Some other medications may cause hair loss as a side effect.
Broken hairs: Hair breakage is when part of a hair breaks off while the growing end remains. The breakage results in thinner hair and can be caused by chemical processing or excessive styling.
In rare cases nutritional deficiencies can result in weak hair that tends to break off.
Other causes of hair loss are certain chronic illnesses, hormone-related problems, skin infections and trauma such as burns and injury to hair follicles resulting in permanent hair loss.
Whatever the cause, thinning hair is a traumatic experience. There has been a tremendous amount of research in all areas of hair loss. The sufferer can choose from countless natural remedies offered, drug therapies available, surgical transplants, and cosmetic remedies. Research foundations and support groups have been formed to offer emotional support and information on recent medical discoveries in causes and treatments. In future weeks I will be discussing some of the individual causes of hair loss as well as the most innovative treatments and cosmetic remedies.
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